Sunday, June 24, 2012

No easy road

June 24, 2012

Dear friends,

In this (alleged) “Golden Age of Psychology” we cut our teeth on the idea that relationships are vital to the “good” life. However, when we push ourselves to explain why this is so we find ourselves floundering. Saying what we need is far easier than saying why we need it.

For the most part, however, we sense what we cannot readily explain: we are wired in such a way that connection with others who share our human identity and experience is a necessity not a luxury. Those people who need people include us all.

This intuitive sense about the essential nature of relationship sometimes over-simplifies our understanding of the forgiveness process. From a place of reasonable self-concern, we can decide that we should forgive because 1) forgiving is “good” for us, making us better people, and 2) forgiving is the “sensible” thing to do, helping us retain relationships that have value to us.

There is truth in this line of reasoning, of course, but it is truth focused in a narrowly self-serving form. In this pragmatic sense, forgiveness is an exercise that aids in the development of moral maturity and an act that repairs and preserves a valuable resource. While this is true, this approach embodies a superficial approach much like reducing the complex matter of dental hygiene to the process of flossing.

A client’s work this week reminded me graphically of the limits (and dangers) of framing forgiveness in this fashion. This client’s parent had been emotionally and physically abusive over the range of a horrendous childhood. When the issue of forgiveness arose, my client rejected with great intensity this form of superficial forgiveness that a well-meaning friend had urged her to undertake. She said:

“Well, someday forgiveness may be something I can think about. But today, I’m just angry. I am angry—really angry. I want to be angry and I’m OK with my anger. And today I can’t imagine a reason to preserve this relationship. I need to put as much distance as I can between the two of us. I mean to do just that without a single twinge of guilt. I have no intention of preserving a relationship that has brought nothing but pain and shame for me.”

On the surface, my client forcibly rejected any idea of working on forgiveness. In fact, however, she had intuitively undertaken the first difficult step in authentic forgiveness: getting in touch with the anger that accompanies the injury and identifying the pain and damage that has occurred.

Thinking with you this week that we cannot truly forgive a wound that we will not acknowledge and whose infection and drainage we will not identify and deal with.

See you next week.

Gay













June 24, 2012



Dear friends,



In this (alleged) “Golden Age of Psychology” we cut our teeth on the idea that relationships are vital to the “good” life. However, when we push ourselves to explain why this is so we find ourselves floundering. Saying what we need is far easier than saying why we need it.



For the most part, however, we sense what we cannot readily explain: we are wired in such a way that connection with others who share our human identity and experience is a necessity not a luxury. Those people who need people include us all.



This intuitive sense about the essential nature of relationship sometimes over-simplifies our understanding of the forgiveness process. From a place of reasonable self-concern, we can decide that we should forgive because 1) forgiving is “good” for us, making us better people, and 2) forgiving is the “sensible” thing to do, helping us retain relationships that have value to us.



There is truth in this line of reasoning, of course, but it is truth focused in a narrowly self-serving form. In this pragmatic sense, forgiveness is an exercise that aids in the development of moral maturity and an act that repairs and preserves a valuable resource. While this is true, this approach embodies a superficial approach much like reducing the complex matter of a dental hygiene to the process of flossing.



A client’s work this week reminded me graphically of the limits (and dangers) of framing forgiveness in this fashion. This client’s parent had been emotionally and physically abusive over the range of a horrendous childhood. When the issue of forgiveness arose, my client rejected with great intensity this form of superficial forgiveness that a well-meaning friend had urged her to undertake. She said:



“Well, someday forgiveness may be something I can think about. But today, I’m just angry. I am angry—really angry. I want to be angry and I’m OK with my anger. And today I can’t imagine a reason to preserve this relationship. I need to put as much distance as I can between the two of us. I mean to do just that without a single twinge of guilt. I have no intention of preserving a relationship that has brought nothing but pain and shame for me.”



On the surface, my client forcibly rejected any idea of working on forgiveness. In fact, however, she had intuitively undertaken the first difficult step in authentic forgiveness: getting in touch with the anger that accompanies the injury and identifying the pain and damage that has occurred.



Thinking with you this week that we cannot truly forgive a wound that we will not acknowledge and whose infection and drainage we will not identify and deal with.



See you next week.



Gay












































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